THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY.
By Rev. Alvah Hovey, D.D. President of Newton
Theological Institution, Mass.
Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Matt. 28:19.
This text has been chosen, not because it speaks of Christian baptism, but because it speaks of a Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For my article will attempt to state the Biblical doctrine of a Trinity a doctrine which is often denominated a mystery, though not always in the scriptural sense of this term. For the word mystery is used by the sacred writers to denote a fact or truth which could not have been discovered by the unassisted mind of man, but which has been revealed by the Saviour or by the Holy Spirit. In this sense it was employed by Christ when he told his disciples why he was teaching them plainly, and the people in parables. Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is in not given. (Matt. 13:11.) And in the same sense it was used by Paul when he informed the Colossians that he had been made a minister to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints. (Col. 1:20.) A mystery, then, in its proper, Biblical sense, is simply a fact or truth made known by revelation. It may, therefore, be plain or obscure, comprehensible or incomprehensible.
But many of the facts revealed by Christ, or by holy men who were enlightened by the Spirit of God, are hard to be understood. They do not fall into the range of our earthly experience. They belong to the world that is unseen and spiritual. They refer to modes of existence and of intercourse that puzzle the understanding. And so we have gradually come to apply the word to any fact or truth which is incomprehensible. In this sense the word is commonly used when we speak of the Divine Trinity. We call the doctrine of the Triune God a mystery, not so much because it is a revealed truth as because it is an obscure truth. Doubtless it is both; For all our knowledge of it is derived from the Bible and all that the Bible says fails to explain the amazing fact. It half reveals and half conceals a mode of the divine existence which differs greatly from anything in our own. Obviously, then, we ought to listen with deep reverence to the testimony of Christ and of his Apostles while they utter wondrous things concerning him whom no man hath seen or can see.
The word Trinity is not applied by any sacred writer to the Supreme Being, but it has been used a long time by Christians to express what they suppose to be a doctrine of the New Testament in respect to God. Trinity, abbreviated from tri-unity, is formed of two words, which signify, respectively, three and one, and is affirmed of God because he is believed to be three in onethat is, in a certain respect three, and in another respect one. Thus Trinity and Unity are affirmed of the Godhead, but they are not both affirmed of the same thing in the Godhead. In harmony with the great body of Christian teachers in the past, we believe that the Unity of God is essential, and the distinctions in God personal. But by the latter expression we do not mean that the Father is as separate and secluded in consciousness from the Son as a human father is from his son; we only mean to say that whatever distinction there is between the Father and the Son is of a personal nature. For it seems to us very evident that the Scriptures teach three things, namely, that theme is but one true God; that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are, each of them, truly Divine or God; and that these three are in a personal respect distinguishable from one another. Let us look at some of the evidence for each of these propositions.
I. The Scriptures teach that there is but one living and true God. This statement is rarely called in question by any person familiar with the sacred record; for it represents the prevailing tone and spirit of that which supports every message of every prophet; and it is often expressed. With all the emphasis possible Moses cried: Hear, 0 Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. (Deut. 6:4.) With no less assurance Malachi asks: have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us? (2:10.) And the Most High declares by the pen of Isaiah: I am Jehovah, that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another. (42:8). Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am Jehovah, and besides me there is no Saviour. (43:10,11.) I am the first and the last, and besides me there is no God. (44:6.) If further evidence is needed, a large part of the fortieth chapter of Isaiah may be read; for it is a passage of wonderful majesty, asserting that Jehovah, in contrast with idols, is the only God, the Creator, the Preserver, and the Ruler of all things. And this doctrine of one God, so clearly announced by the prophets, became at last the settled creed the Jews, and was made by them an excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ as a blasphemer, instead of receiving him as the Son of God. Yet the Saviour himself taught that there is but one true God, (e. g. Mark 10:18); and while he claimed to be strictly divine, he so identified himself with the Father that the unity of God was maintained.
As to the nature of the divine unity, we hold that it is essential, or in other words, that the proper essence or substance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is forever one and the same -- a simple, indivisible, self-existent, everlasting principle of life, intelligence, wisdom, love and power. This language describes what is implied in the words of the sacred writers; it offers a key that will fit into all the statements of Scripture and lay open to us their treasures of wisdom. Do the sacred writers lay great stress on the Unity of God, as if it were a fundamental characteristic of His being ? This view accounts for their so doing, for by a law of our reason we attach even greater importance to being than to manifestation, oven though that manifestation be personal. Do they represent the distinctions of the Godhead as personal? This view is consistent with the representation, for It has never been proved that unity of essence carries with it unity of person. Do they ascribe equal knowledge, goodness, wisdom, and right to the divine Father, Son and Spirits This view explains their doctrine, for the same attributes ought naturally to inhere in personal beings whose underlying and essential nature is one and the same. Does the Saviour say, "I and my Father are one," (John 10:30); that is, one in guarding the flock, one in power, one thing, using a neuter form of the word one? This view accounts for the saying better: than any other with which we are acquainted; for power, In the last analysis, belongs to essence, and if the essence of the Father and the Son is one and the same, their power may well be one. In the light of these facts it seems to us that the Unity of God is essential.
II. The Scriptures plainly teach that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are, each of them, truly divine, or God. We are not now concerned about the agreement of this teaching with the doctrine that God is one, but are seeking to show that this teaching is to be found in the New Testament. If found there, we may be sure that it agrees with the Unity of God, even though we should be unable to comprehend the mystery of the divine nature, and demonstrate this agreement. Taking one step at it time, let us search for the testimony of the inspired Word as to the Deity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christians of every name freely admit that the Father is often called God, and is always represented by the sacred writers as truly divine. That Christians are right in doing this may be proved by a single text; for in his Epistle to the Ephesians Paul declares there is "one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in you all" (4:6.) If we add to this the fact that, while there are several passages of the New Testament in which the term God may signify the Supreme Being, without any special reference to the Father, and a few in which it is applied to the Son or to the Holy Spirit, there are very many in which this term is applied to the Father -- no further proof will be necessary. The proper Deity of the Father will be accepted as a certain truth of Scripture.
In regard to the Deity of the Son, we appeal, first, to the language of Thomas when Jesus appeared to him in the evening of the eighth day after his resurrection. For seeing Jesus before him, he said unto him: "My Lord and my God." (John, 20:28.) If this was not a definite acknowledgment of the Deity of Christ, I am at a loss to conceive how such an acknowledgment could have been made. And the Saviour did not protest against it. He who had recently come from Paradise with the awe of the unseen and Holy Father upon him, did not rebuke the words of his disciples, though, if he was less than God they were false and blasphemous.
We appeal secondly to the words of Paul, exhorting the Philippians, "Let this mind be in you which was was in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation," etc. (2:5-6.) These words teach that equality with God was freely relinquished by Jesus Christ when He left His heavenly state or condition to become man. But no being can relinquish or forego that which is beyond his reach; no one can relinquish his equality with God whose nature does not qualify him to be on a level with God, to share his condition and glory. With this passage may becompared another in the Epistle to the Colossians, written about the same time, in which, speaking of Christ, he says that "all things have been created by him and for him" and that "in him all things consist," (1:16, 17); while a little further on he declares that "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (2:8.) Or we may turn to one of his earlier epistles, namely, that sent to the Romans, and hear him say of the Israelites: "Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is God overall, blessed forever." (9:5)
We appeal thirdly to the language of John in his prologue to the Fourth Gospel, who says that "the Word was God," that "all things were made by Him," that "in Him was life," and that "the life was the light of men." (1:1-4.) With these words of the disciple whom Jesus loved we may compare the sayings of Christ himself: "The Son can do nothing of himself" or from himself; that is, so close is the union between the Father and Son that any action of the Son, separate from that of the Father, is impossible. Hence the full expression is this: "The Son can do nothing from himself but what he seeth the Father do; for what things soever he (the Father) doeth, these in like manner doeth the Son also. For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." (5:19-21.) "I am the light of the world?' (7:12.) "Before Abraham was, I am." ( 8:58.) "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (14:9.) "I and my Father are one." ( 10:30; 17:22.) This last expression was twice used by the Lord-- once to affirm the inseparable unity of his own action and his Father's, and once to affirm his moral unity with the Father.
We have here given but a small part of the biblical evidence that Christ is truly God, but enough to establish this proposition as a doctrine of the Christian religion. Our Saviour is divine as well as human, and we are constrained to take account of His divinity in forming our conception of the Godhead.
But if the Son is truly God, so likewise is the Spirit, This might be inferred with some degree of probability from the designation itself; for as the spirit of man is that part of his being which is highest, freest, most intelligent, it is surely improbable, that inspired men would apply such a name as Spirit of God, or Holy Spirit, to anything less high and holy than God Himself. The same might be inferred with still greater confidence from the fact that divers acts, such as inspiration, regeneration, sanctification and the like are ascribed sometimes to God, sometimes to Christ, sometimes to the Spirit of God, sometimes to the Spirit of Christ, and sometimes to the Holy Spirit; while a careful examination and comparison of all these representations lead to the belief that it is the Holy Spirit who accomplishes, by direct agency, the divine will in human souls. Moreover, the proper deity of the Holy Spirit appears to be assumed by Peter in his address to Ananias: "Why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? " * * * "Why hast thou conceived this thing in thy heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." (Acts 5:3, 4.) The same assumption is also made by Paul in these words: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1. Cor. 3:16.) That is, God dwells in his temple, and you are God's temple, because the Spirit of God dwells in you, for the Spirit is God. But we need not multiply citations, for there seems to be in fact no biblical ground for doubt as to the divinity of the Holy Spirit. It may be necessary to collect with some care the evidence that he is personal, but it is needless to prove that he is Divine,.
III. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinguishable in a personal respect from one another. Personality is self hood, and by a personal, being we mean a being that is intelligent, self-conscious, voluntary--a being that knows, feels, wills. Let us observe what the Scriptures teach in respect to a personal distinction between the Father and the Son. (1.) They make use of these terms as divine names, and these terms, Father and Son, point to distinctions of a personal nature. They are applicable to beings that know, love, plan and choose. Any other use of them is intensely figurative. Yet they are used very often by the Saviour, when his language is otherwise plain, sober, didactic. And they are often accompanied by other expressions which rest on the idea of a personal distinction between the Father and the Son. (2.) The pronouns I, thou, he and we, are often employed by Jesus in speaking of himself, of the Father, or of both, and they imply the personality of himself and of His Father, as well as some distinction between the two. Thus: "I thank thee, 0 Father, Lord of Heaven and earth." (Matt. 11:25.) " Glorify thou me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (John 17:5.) "Even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us." (John 17:21.) If this use of the pronouns does not prove that there is some distinction of a personal nature between the Father and the Son, it is not easy to imagine any kind of evidence which would be accepted as proof of such a distinction. (3.) Christ distinguishes between His own knowledge and the Father's. Thus: "No one knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any one the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him." (Matt. 11:27.) "The Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that himself doeth." (John v5:20.) Both these testimonies--one preserved in the Gospel of Matthew, and the other in the Gospel of John--imply that the intellect of the Son is, properly speaking,, distinguishable from that of the Father. And the same may be said of nearly every passage in the New Testament which refers to the knowledge of either. (4.) Christ distinguishes between his own affection and his Father's; not indeed as to the moral character of that affection, but as to the heart that exercises it. "The Father loveth the Son," (John 5:20), is a declaration of Jesus himself, and it accords with the voice from Heaven: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:17.) As to the Son's love of the Father, we find it expressed in such terms as these: "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me." (John 4:34). "I honor my Father." (John 8:49) "I know him and keep his word." (John 8:55.) "I do always those things which please him." (John 8:29.) It is then certain that the Father loves the Son, and the Son the Father; and it is no less certain that mutual affection implies distinctions of a personal nature. (5.) Christ distinguishes between his own will and his Father's will. "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father that glorifieth me." (John 8:54.) "1 seek not mine own glory; there is one that seeketh and judgeth." (John 8:50.) "Not my will, but thine, be done." ( Luke 12:42.) There is, of course, a sense in which the Father's will is the same as the Son's; for they agree in willing the same holy ends; but if the passages quoted by us are to have any natural interpretation, the faculty of will in the Father is in some way and measure distinct from the faculty of will in the Son, and this distinction is clearly personal.
Finally, it must be observed that every particle of evidence to be found in the New Testament for any kind of Trinity in the Godhead, goes to prove that the distinctions marked by the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of a personal nature. All the Scriptural evidence, we say, looks towards this kind of a distinction, and not as some would have us believe, to something else which is utterly, and it may be forever, hidden from us in the depths of the Divine nature.
But, if we admit the personality of the Son to be distinguishable from that of the Father, is it necessary to take a similar view of the Holy Spirit? May we not think of the latter its being only a certain divine influence or operation by which the Father and the Son move upon the hearts of men? In answer to these questions, it may be said: 1. That our appeal must still be made to Biblical evidence. Where that leads, it is necessary for us to follow; for on this subject there is no other valid evidence within our reach. 2. That all the logical difficulties involved in the doctrine of a tripersonal God are encountered in the doctrine of a bipersonal God, the Father and the Son, and as we must accept the latter, there is no reason why we should not accept the former, if it is supported by preponderating evidence. 3. That the biblical evidence for the personality of the Holy Spirit is amply sufficient to justify belief in the same. Recall the words of my text, "Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Is it easy to suppose that the Lord Jesus here associates an influence or operation with himself and the Father? binding them together by the word "name"? Can we believe that he intended to say, "Baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy influence which is exercised by the Father and the Son?" Read the Apostle's benediction "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14), and ask yourselves whether there is not in this case also strong reason to infer the personality of the Spirit from the personality of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Father? Recall, at the same time, the Apostle's account of the extraordinary gifts which were bestowed on certain members of the early church, concluding with the words, "But all those worketh the one and self-same Spirit, distributing to every one severally as he willeth" (1. Cor. 12:11), and his word of exhortation, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom ye were called unto the day of redemption." (Eph. 5:30). In these expressions, feeling, willing and doing are ascribed to the Spirit as unequivocally as they are ever ascribed to the Father or to the Son. Recall, too, the language of Christ when he promised the Comforter to his disciples: "He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak of (or from) himself, but whatsoever he shall hear that will he speak; and he will show you things to come. He will glorify me, for he will receive of mine and will show it unto you." (John 16:13, 14). Do not the words, "he will not speak from himself," imply that he could speak from himself ? Is it necessary to say that an influence or operation will not speak from itself? Or does an influence or mode of action "hear" and "receive"? It is enough to read the last discourse of Jesus before he was betrayed, in order to be convinced that the holy Spirit is as truly personal as the Father or the Son.
Thus the elements of the doctrine of the Trinity are found in the New Testament; the unity of God, the deity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and the personal distinction between these three. And these elements readily unite in the received doctrine of the Trinity, which is, that .the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one and the same in essence, but distinguishable in a personal respect. This doctrine, I repeat, is not to be fully comprehended by us in the present life. It may be a mystery forever. For who can find out the deep things of God? (Job 11:17.) No one can tell just how far unity of spiritual essence modifies and reduces the distinction involved in separate personalities as we know them. All we affirm is this : that, according to Scripture, the divine unity is essential, and the difference between the eternal Father, Son, and Spirit personal, or of a personal nature. There is a vast mystery here. But it is not the only mystery that confronts us. There is no power or object in nature that does not rest in mystery, in the very bosom and sea of impenetrable obscurity. Who of us ever expects to learn on the shores of time the secret of the union of body and soul, of matter and spirit, acting and reacting upon each other, and so related by vital forces as to be a single being, a complex unity, as proved by the witness of self-consciousness? Most truly did the Apostle say: "For now we know in part, and we prophesy in part."
But if we cannot comprehend the Trinity, why is anything said of it in the Bible? Would not the Scriptures have been more useful, because less obscure and perplexing, if they had contained no references to this mysterious truth ? We think not. Be the subject what it may, our knowledge of it is only partial; yet this partial knowledge is found to produce wonder, curiosity, desire, effort and progress; yea, partial knowledge has often proved sufficient to smother vanity, beget reverence, warn of danger, and point out the way of life. Men knew how to use the compass, and, by its direction, how to cross the pathless deep in safety, long before they had any conception (if they have this now) of the power which held it with unseen hand, and made its trembling point a steady guide in cloud and storm. Men have known by the Word of God of a future life and a heavenly state, and have been animated to holy action by that knowledge, though quite unable to imagine the peculiarities of that life, and always baffled in their attempts to comprehend its glory. In like manner our knowledge of the Trinity, though partial, is sufficient to awaken awe, reverence, gratitude and praise in our hearts. It is all we need for religious direction and improvement. It is all we need to prevent us from relapsing into the coldness of deism or the distraction of polytheism. If the unity of the Godhead were not plainly taught, we should be liable, in the interest of clear thought, to regard the Father and the Son and the Spirit as three separate beings, like ourselves. If the deity of the Son and the Spirit were not plainly taught, we should be liable, under the influence of gratitude, to pay religious homage to our Saviour and our Sanctifier, even though they were not known to be truly divine. And if the personal distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were not plainly taught, we should be in danger of rejecting the whole doctrine of grace through atonement, and of going back to Judaism or over to Islamism, where legal righteousness and despair are the sole alternatives.
In two particulars, especially, may a reverent belief of the Trinity prove helpful to our religious life. In the first place, it may help us to see how God can be forever both self-sufficient and benevolent. By saying that God is self-sufficient, we mean to say that his being and blessedness are complete in themselves, and therefore independent of any other being; and by saying that he is benevolent, we mean to say that he is love, that good will to others is natural to him. For when we read, "Every one that loveth is born of God, for God is love" (1. John 4:8), we feel that an affection really akin to Christian love, though infinite and eternal, must pervade and animate the life of the Godhead. And this is actually conceivable, if we can say with the Apostle John, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1.) For the term with denotes fellowship, intimate communion; in this case, the fellowship of the divine Word with the divine Father. And it is easy to see that if there are different selves in the infinite Being,-- however interpenetrant, transparent and perfectly known to one another they may be,-- there must be mutual and perfect love; for in every one of them must be constantly revealed, in personal form and beauty, the infinite virtues of their common nature. But, with any other view, we must believe, either that love is not an affection eternally active in God, or that he has had from eternity created objects on which to bestow his affection. By the former supposition, the innermost and highest activity of the Godhead is temporal instead of eternal, and mutable instead of permanent; and by the latter, the highest affection and blessedness of Jehovah depend upon the existence of created objects. But such a dependence of God upon creation is inconsistent with any proper idea of his self-sufficiency or perfection. I am, therefore, convinced that the doctrine of the Trinity is very helpful to us in forming a conception of God as both self-sufficing and loving.
In the second place, this doctrine is a help to us in thinking of the Atonement. As a matter of history, we know that a rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity has almost always led to a rejection of the Atonement, while a cordial belief in the Trinity has been almost always accompanied with a belief in the Atonement. From this fact alone it would be safe to conclude that the two doctrines belong to the same system of' truth. But this is not all that should be said. The Scriptures link them together in many places and the method of interpretation which finds or fails to find one of them will find or fail to find the other. He to whom the Scriptures represent Jesus Christ as the Son of God-- strictly divine and strictly human --will see in him a fit Mediator between God and men, and will receive the testimony of the Apostles to his atoning death. The mystery of a triune God accepted, a hundred passages of the New Testament, otherwise obscure, are made plain. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.) "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." (John1:23.) "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." (1. John 2:1, 2.) "For he made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2. Cor. 5:21.) "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1. John 1:7.) " Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by him, seeing that he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Heb. 7:25.) "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." (Rev. 5:12.)
Though my principal object in this essay has been to set forth, as clearly as possible, what seems to me to be the plain teaching of the Scriptures concerning a triune God, I am fully aware of the objections which are sometimes made to it, and might attempt, if it was necessary, to point out their inconclusiveness. But I will only remark:
1. That the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, as believed by evangelical Christians, is not self-contradictory. This will be evident, if you recall the fact that it does not affirm God to be in all respects one, and in all respects three, but in a certain respect one and in another respect three. To illustrate my thought : there is no contradiction in saying that every man is three in essence, and one in person or consciousness. His being may comprise three distinct elements -- a material body, a principle of life which pervades and animates that body, and a spirit which is united with both, but higher than either, rational, immortal, and fitted to "glorify God and enjoy him forever." I do not say that man has this triple nature; I only say that there is no contradiction in supposing that he has it. So, on the other hand, there is no contradiction in supposing that the personality of God is triple, and his essence single. In either case, our only duty is to ask for the evidence and follow where it leads. In the one case, as well as in the other, we are brought face to face with a mystery which no man ever yet comprehended or explained. Let us not stumble at mysteries. The universe is full of them and from youth to age we are encompassed by them as by an atmosphere. Let us not imagine that we can comprehend the Almighty, "He is higher than heaven, what canst thou know?" My brethren, this is not a theme for philosophy, but for revelation. On this subject, above most others, we need to be as little children, accepting the facts as they are declared to us by "holy men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
2. That the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, as understood by evangelical. Christians, is not inconsistent with some kind of subordination on the part of the Son to the Father. We may be unable to point out the kind or degree of that subordination, but two remarks will show the direction in which it is possible to look for light. First. The second person of the Godhead is generally set before us by the sacred writers in his state of incarnation or humiliation. Both prophecy and history are chiefly occupied with him as the Mediator, and in this office he took upon himself the form, place and work of a servant of God, though he was Head over all things to the church. A certain subordination to the Father is therefore involved in his mediatorial work. But the relation of sonship and official subordination among men is consistent with that of equality in every natural and moral excellence; may we not believe that it is equally so in the Godhead, whose personal distinctions are rooted in a common nature? Second. To say that the distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is of a personal nature, is to prepare the way for us to believe that some personal quality of the eternal Word rendered it divinely suitable that he should be the revealer of God and the Redeemer of mankind, and that some personal quality of the Holy Spirit rendered it divinely suitable that he should be the Sanctifier of men. Beyond this we need not attempt to go. We may be certain that there is an eternal fitness or decorum in all the acts of the triune God, but it is too much for us to expect to see and comprehend it in the present life.
3. That in prayer we should think of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as truly divine. We need not hesitate to address either of them in praise or petition. We need not, and we should not, fear to sing, "Come Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove." Though this is prayer and praise to the Spirit, the author of the new life is certainly God, since "every one that loveth is born of God" (1. John 4:17), and those who "believe in the name" of Christ "have been born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13); that is to say, of God the Spirit; for "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," and "the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whether it goeth, so is (it with) every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8.) We need not hesitate to offer praise or petition to Christ; for that is what the first Christians did, when they called on the name of the Lord; that is what Stephen did, when he said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59), and that is what the hosts of heaven were seen and heard doing by the Apostle John when banished to the isle of Patmos. And, finally, we need not puzzle ourselves with any attempt to hold in our minds the unity and tripersonality of God at the same time. It is enough for us to come to God as sinners saved by grace, recognizing the work of Christ in our behalf, and ready to ascribe the glory of our salvation to the infinite God. It is enough if we honor God in the unseen Father, behold him in the face of Jesus Christ, and gratefully welcome his presence in the working of the Holy Spirit.
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